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Design Directions

BITAC® Panel Examines Everything From Local Movement To Social Media

Friday, July 19, 2019
Dennis Nessler
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The continuing trend toward local, creating signature social media moments and activating the lobby space were among the top hospitality design trends addressed during a BITAC® Purchasing & Design East panel discussion at The Fairmont Southampton in Bermuda.

In a session entitled “Design Direction: What’s Trending In Hospitality Today,” the executives shared their experiences and best practices beginning with the movement to incorporate local design elements into hotels to give guests a sense of place.

Joseph Alteari, project director, Floss Barber, Inc., noted the company stresses local, particularly when it comes to repurposing elements within some of its historic projects. “This is something we try to excel at and that’s to bring life to the hotel. There used to be this anticipation that whereever you went, particularly with a brand, it would be the same and there was a sense of calm. But now the sense of calm is being replaced with a sense of experience,” he said.

Bob Sowell, president, Destination Designs, LLC, added, “you can bring in local through through artwork. Like in Nashville you bring in the music or in the Smoky Mountains you’ve got these beautiful views. That is a destination to come to why would you want something that has been plopped out of someplace else and stuck there?”

Sandy Moon, owner/designer, Focus Design, further touted the importance of local artwork. “We really try hard to explore the market and find truly local artists that will paint the picture of nice art and a collected type of piece. It’s not just art it’s sculpture, it’s dimensional art, sometimes it’s photography,” she said.

Moon also urged hotels to go beyond the obvious and do some research on the property or local area. “You want to dive deeper into it and find out some more of the historical things; things that people wouldn’t necessarily know,” she commented.

Michelle Meredith, president, Michelle Meredith & Associates, pointed out the local trend extends to food & beverage as well. “One thing I think also is being looked at is the food & beverage menu and that’s also very much bringing local into the hotel. Owners are looking at what the food of the region is, what the cocktails are, and trying to be innovative about that but yet stay within the region,” she said.

Meanwhile, the panelists acknowledged the importance of maximizing social media opportunities when designing hotels.

According to Meredith, “I think that Instagram is just huge and I don’t know that we consciously think about that when we’re designing. But if you do a really unique design then that’s what the millennials, baby boomers, or anyone who wants to connect with people on Instagram or Facebook, will share...It’s those unique, creative moments that we put in the hotels that cause those Instagram moments and once that happens, and once it is posted, it advertises the hotel and it’s a wonderful way to get the word out,” he said.

Alteari offered his perspective. “I think we do this unconsciously when we’re designing. We don’t go in to try to specifically say ‘this is the moment’ it happens through the process of design. As a designer if you have a cohesive package it just comes together naturally so we’re not trying to force Instagram moments, but as designers they happen because of the skill to assemble materials and product and space,” he said.

The lobby remains a critical area of emphasis for designers as hotels increasingly try to get guests out of their rooms by creating communal spaces.

Alterai talked about some of the changes.
“There are a lot of properties, especially urban properties, where the size of the guestroom is shrinking a little and by default you’re creating spaces on the community levels for people to congregate. That’s also driving revenue for hotel owners in the bar spaces and lobby spaces. Where previously someone might not of thought of bringing food service into the lobby of a hotel now it’s basically part of the game,” he said.

Sowell underscored the point. “The more you can get people to congregate together the better. Why does somebody have to go outside to get something when you can keep it all inside and be able to get the revenue off of it,” he said.

Moon provided another example with the WeWork concept, which provides shared workspaces. “The whole concept is this congregational type of set up where my business is interacting with your business, which is interacting with that business. It’s very casual and the nice thing about is if I’m a member in Atlanta I can go to Tampa and get a conference room if I need to conduct a meeting. So that concept we’re bringing into the lobby environment where people can come in and stay connected,” she said.

When it comes to staying connected designers acknowledged they have to make sure they accommodate the continued evolution in technology.

According to Sowell, “one of things you got to realize is that every person--man, women and child--carries at least three items now with them that need to be charged. So if you’ve got a family of four staying in a two-bedroom you’re going to need 12 areas to be able to be charge them and that’s something the hotels really need to stay on top of...Technology is going to continue to evolve and it’s really kind of like a carousel, you have to get on it sooner or later,” he said.

Meredith talked about her recent experience with the Sheraton brand, which is undergoing a number of changes. “One thing they are doing is they are having someone taking an iPad and greeting the guests as they come in and asking them if they would like a drink or if they would like any appetizers or whatever. They will take their order, get it ready and then bring it out to the lobby. I thought that was a really innovative thing that they’re looking at...There are just a lot of different ways that the brands are trying to utilize technology in different ways but for the guest,” she asserted.

Alteari touted the iPad concept in particular. “This really tells the customer that they’re so much more important than we are as a hotel. We want to give you what you need and want,” he said.
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Dennis Nessler    Dennis Nessler
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